Monday, December 27, 2010

well, i don't know about yours, but our christmas was... wow.

back in early november, i received an email from a dear, dear friend:

Dear Heather
The Christmas season is fast approaching and while the season is one of love, joy, peace and hope, it can also be a season of stress when you have children and want to give them that magical Christmas morning experience.
It was going to be more of a surprise (initially) but after a few conversations with your mom, we decided that perhaps we should share our plans with you in order to alleviate some of the holiday stresses you are feeling.   So here it is:   This year Christmas is on us.   My family, including my parents,  would like to give you guys Christmas.   The plan right now is new pajamas for each child, a new outfit for each child, warm hats and mittens for each, and some new toys for each child.   Plus a bin of dry goods for your cupboards, a gift card for the grocery store (and a few things for you but those can be kept secret!).   Your mom has given me some great ideas for each kiddo (she was my spy on the weekend lol), but if you know something special they are "asking Santa for" or a specific request please let me know.   We were planning to drop the gifts off at your moms (either wrapped or unwrapped depending on if you wanted to see them first or not) and then you can give them to the kids from you.   My children know they are helping shop for some fabulous kids to help them have a great Christmas, but they don't know it's your kids (because they do play once in a while and I didn't want my kids to mention something, albeit innocently and make yours uncomfortable).
Let me know if I'm on the right track.   I'm sorry to blow the secret, and I was planning to just be "santa's elf" but after talking to your mom I didn't want you to be stressed out leading up to Christmas.   I hope that this helps!   I can't think of a family who deserves a little love more than you guys.   You are an amazing mom and you've raised three wonderful, loving, happy children.   And I couldn't be more proud to be your friend.
Merry Christmas! xo

can you believe that?!?! when i read that email, i bawled. an amazing gift from a wonderful friend for my incredible children.

i didn't have to worry about a single gift for the kids. (mind you, i went along thinking for over a month that i didn't have to buy anything, la dee dah, i have no shopping to do so yes, i'm ready for christmas, are you?, and then it occurred to me a couple weeks ago that i needed to buy stuff for my parents, brother, his girlfriend, my grandmother... yeah. insert mad dash to the mall in london and voila! most of that shopping done under budget and in a couple hours. yes, i'm just. that. good. HAHA!!)

christmas morning was, well, unbelievable. the kids got everything on their wishlists. blithe got all things justin bieber, bram got all things lego, and asher got all things elmo. blithe also got an easy bake oven and a lalaloopsy doll, and the boys got some transformers, too.

and the thing is... they were so grateful!! that afternoon, bram was playing with his lego while i wrote a note to my aunt, and he looked up at me and said,

"mommy, i'm really thankful for everything i have."

have you ever heard something so wonderful???

well, i have. that night, as blithe was saying her prayers, she thanked God for all the gifts we got, "because I know they came from you. how did you know i wanted a singing justin bieber doll and an easy bake oven?? well, i suppose you know everything, so of course you would know that, right?"

yesterday, we were driving home from church, and blithe said to me,

"mommy, i'm really thankful for everything you and nana and bampa bought us."

i said, "sweetie, i only gave you a couple things. nana and bampa only gave you a few things. most of those gifts you received yesterday weren't from me or nana and bampa."

and her jaw dropped.

she's been a bit unsure about santa this year, not sure if she still believes or not. but yeah. i'm pretty sure she believes now.

(in case you haven't realized, the kids don't know about this gift to us. i had told blithe that santa is the spirit of giving at christmas, and that's what i'm sticking with. all this stuff... yeah. it's from santa.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

surprise, surprise, i've taken up a new hobby

so, yesterday, asher and i went a-shopping. we were in search of a scarf for him, because, well, it's cold out now, and well, he doesn't have a scarf.

seems logical enough.

did you know that wal-mart doesn't have scarves for wee lads???

or at least none that i could find.

but what i did find...

was yarn!!

and knitting needles!!!

now, i used to knit a little bit, way back when blithe was a baby. and i've been wanting to get back to it lately, because, you know... i don't have enough on my plate lately. haha

anyway, asher loved the idea of a handmade scarf, so he helped me to pick out some yarn for himself and for bram (blithe already has a scarf), and i grabbed some needles, and off we went.

when i came home, i looked up knitting instructions on youtube. so now i've learned to tie a slip know (haha, yes, i needed to start there, apparently), cast on, and do the basic knit stitch. awesome!!!

so far, i am 5 or 6 rows into the scarf, and i'm loving every second of it!! it's very soothing and calming, since it's so repetitive and quiet. i'd forgotten how much i love knitting!!

when i'm done the scarf, i'll post a picture of it so you can marvel at my knitty genius. :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

snow day = kitchen day!!

the menu for today:

breakfast: oatmeal chocolate chip muffins. yes, from a mix, but they were yummy!

lunch: split pea soup. (see recipe below)

snack: peanut butter nuggets. (see recipe below)

supper: probably potato pancakes. le yum!

i made the muffins myself, and added a bit of cinnamon, as i mentioned in my previous post. they were good!! i also made the soup on my own, but it would have been very easy for blithe to help with it. probably not the boys, but definitely blithe. the PB nuggets will be made by the kids and me, though mostly them. the potato pancakes, i will likely make those myself. here are the recipes:

Split Pea Soup with veggies
split peas. i don't know how much. just throw them into the pot.
chicken broth. i just poured until it covered the peas.
water. added just a little bit, not much. enough to make it about an inch higher than the peas
some chopped carrots.
half a small onion, chopped.
garlic, salt

seriously, toss it all into a pot, turn on the stove, and walk away. easy peasy. once it's done cooking, use a hand blender to... um... blend it. and then enjoy. it will be nice and thick (but not too thick). it's good with crackers, though i suspect croutons would be even better.

Peanut Butter Nuggets (from allrecipes.com)
2/3 cup crushed cornflakes (or rice krispies... because that's what i have on hand)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey

1. mix 1/2 cup corn flakes, coconut, peanut butter and honey together.
2. shape into small balls and roll them in remaining cornflakes.

*these cookies can be put in the fridge to firm up.
**these cookies freeze well.
***yield: 2 dozen

UPDATE: the kids loved making these, and we all loved eating them!! we rolled them in icing sugar instead of rice krispies, and they were wonderful!!


Old-Fashioned Potato Pancakes (from allrecipes.com)
3 cups shredded peeled potatoes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cups grated onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp minced fresh parsley. (obviously, you would need more if you're using dried... which is what i have)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Rinse potatoes in cold water; drain thoroughly. in a bowl, mix potatoes, eggs, onion, flour, parsley, salt and pepper. pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto a greased hot griddle. fry 5-6 minutes on each side or until potatoes are tender and pancakes are golden brown.
*yield 2 servings
**i usually shred 3 to 4 potatoes and then just eyeball the quantities from there. always turns out deliciously! :)
***mmm... potato pancakes with syrup... le drool!!!

SNOW DAY!!!!!!

that's right, folks, winter has officially arrived in our area. we have gotten so much snow that school is cancelled today!!! so here's the plan for the day:

the kids and i are going to do some papercrafting, and we'll read a bit. i'm about to make some muffins. the kids will probably go outside to play for a little while, and when they come in, we'll have hot chocolate. and i might make some soup today. i'm thinking... carrot? or maybe skip the soup and make stew? dunno yet. i'll let you know what i decide.

i'm going to keep updating this post as the day goes on, to keep you abreast of the minutiae of the day here. because, if you're honest with yourself, you know you're dying to know. haha

UPDATE #1: the muffins were yummy. oatmeal chocolate chip. sure, i used a mix and didn't make them from scratch, but they're still yummy. and i added cinnamon, which adds a little something extra. delightful! :) as for the soup... blithe has specifically requested split pea soup, which she is going to help make. can't wait!

UPDATE #2: the soup is cooking, and it smells wonderful. {blissed out smile} but you know i'm all about handy household hints, so here's one for you: if you decide to make split pea soup, and you decide to turn the container with the peas upside down, make sure the container is shut tight first... or just don't turn it over. that would work, too... i guess. but anyhoozle... the kids have played outside. bram is the proud creator of not one, not two, but three snow angels. they all came in, bright-eyed and rosy cheeked. oh! and runny-nosed. can't forget that one! haha

at some point this afternoon, i plan to brave the out-of-doors and shovel the driveway. but i have discovered the advantage to living across from a field: blowing snow. which, contrary to what you might be thinking, is actually rather handy on days like today. you see, even though the snow is whipping around and getting dumped on us today... it just blows right past my driveway!!! so i will only need to shovel a few inches, instead of a couple ashers-worth of snow (snow piled as high as two ashers). so that's pretty handy, if you ask me. {wink}

on a side note, i must remember to either find or purchase a snow brush for the truck. because i can't find it. the truck, i mean. asher looked out the window this morning and said, "we have a white car now!" and bram changed her name to "whiter." yup. lots of snow today.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

ok, maybe winter isn't so bad. (wait! who wrote that???)

before i continue on to this post, i want you to check out our weather forecast for the next couple days. (click on "our weather forecast." it takes you to the weather channel's page for our town.) notice all the snow. it started last night, just lightly. but today... yup. lots of snow. the roads aren't pretty (and coincidentally, my truck's front end isn't pretty anymore, either. stupid guardrails). they're very slippery and messy and all-around nasty. if you live in this area and don't absolutely need to go out, don't.


which leads to the point of this post:

those things about winter that are wonderful and remind me of the little blessings in my life:
  • warm coffee in my favourite christmas mug. it's a giant mug covered with candy canes, etc. it is also ideal for hot chocolate.
  • hot chocolate with the kidley-winks. a rare treat, but a fun one. 
  • de-icing windshield washer fluid. which reminds me: i need to put de-icing windshield washer fluid in the truck.
  • staying inside, snuggled on the couch, and enjoying the sounds of the kidley-winks playing.
  • the smells of soups, chilis, casseroles and breads emanating from the kitchen
  • the look of the snow in the backyard
  • the sights and sounds of the kidley-winks playing in the snow
  • christmas parties. 'nuff said. 
  • hot apple cider. preferable mulled with all those lovely things like cinnamon, cloves, orange slices... mmm....
  • comfy cozy slippers. espcially leopard-print comfy cozy slippers.
  • yoga pants and my pink, over-sized coconut joe sweatshirt. (quite a picture i paint, no?)
and one other thing. this afternoon, i went out to the shed to get the shovels. as it happens, they were buried under 50 lbs or so of carpet and underpad. and it was wedged between all of that and a pile of boxes. nice. anyhoo, as i was swearing grunting and pulling and trying desperately to not pull all that carpeting on top of myself, my neighbour came outside and asked if i'd like him to shovel the driveway for me. he's out there right now, not so much "shoveling" as "blowing" the snow.

so, ok. i'll admit. there are some wonderful things about winter.

and cherish this post. come february, i won't be so keen on finding blessings. by then, i'll be cursing the snow and the cold and the ice and the lack of sunshine and being stuck inside all day... ugh. but for now, i'm choosing the focus on the good things.

now, please pass the vitamin D supplements. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

best. product. ever.

ok, so we all know that i love to cook. love it. and i'm learning to {mumble, mumble, mumble}.

what's that? you didn't understand me there?

sigh.

ok, fine. i'm learning to enjoy baking, too.


there, i said it. sigh.

and so, in that vein, i am learning to appreciate certain products that i never fully appreciated before. and one of those products is

Europe's Best frozen berries. honestly. i lurv these things.

now, usually, i prefer the raspberries. because raspberries rock. but, the kids prefer the mix, so that is what i end up buying, nine times out of ten.

why do i love these so much, you ask? well, gentle reader, let me tell you!!

1. not overly expensive. even on my "budget." and sometimes you'll find them on sale. and yes, they sell them at Shoppers Drug Mart, so i get a 30% discount, which in my books, makes them pretty darn reasonable.

2. frozen means "not packed in sugar and preservatives." that's right, folks, nothing added. just berries and cold. sure, they're not fresh. i understand that. but they're fresh when they get freezed (as opposed to "when they are frozen," which is the state in which i buy them... see the difference? and yes, i invented a word. but i'm a writer, so i'm allowed some creative license with the language, i think. {wink}) so that's good enough for me (except when they're in season, but it's almost december here, so pretty much nothing is in season at the moment).

3. yumminess. again, raspberries FTW ("for the win," for you non-cyber-types). the blackberries are also nice. and the kids love the strawberries and blueberries (pa-tooie!), so it's all good.

4. healthiness. is that a word? who knows. who cares. you know what i mean. and really, do i need to elaborate on this one??

ok, ok, i'll grant that some people will have complaints about frozen berries. specifically, that they get soggy. and yes, ok, i'll admit, that if you're just pulling some berries out of the bag, thawing them and eating them straight up like that, yes. they're going to be soggy and gross. but! to those people, i say...

dude, seriously! diversify!!!

here's a list, totally off the top of my head as i'm writing here, of things you can make with these berries:

  • smoothies
  • milkshakes (which in this house, are the same thing as smoothies. but bram doesn't like smoothies, but he loves milkshakes. just don't tell him they're the same thing. {wink})
  • parfait, a la Europe's Best website.
  • parfait, a la heather. which is, in this order from bottom to top: yogurt (vanilla or berry), frozen berries, granola. le yum!
  • pies. and really, who doesn't love pie?
  • jams
  • muffins
  • banana bread
need i go on? or are you getting the idea? i sure hope you are.

i also hope you're grabbing your purse and heading out to the grocery store and picking up a bag of these little drops of baking heaven.

and yes, in case you're wondering, they have a bunch of varieties of fruit, not just berries. they also have cranberries, mangoes, peaches, blueberries, etc. and they have veggies, too. asparagus (which is lovely), spinach (a post is forthcoming about that little gem, too), potatoes, and many others.

and also, in case you're wondering, if you click on the links in this post, you will be taken to the Europe's Best website. there you'll find the complete list of products, as well as a whole lot of recipes. and who doesn't love recipes, eh???

Friday, November 26, 2010

birthdays!!!!

yup, i'm in a birthday frame of mind lately.

both the boys have birthdays in early december. and so... we're having a party.

yes. party. singular. as in, only one.

they both wanted to have their party at the bowling alley. bram's best friend has his b-day party there last month, and bram loved it. so, of course, we just have to do that, too.

but... it's kind of expensive. so......

i presented them the option of "plan B"... and thank God, they loved it and are very excited about. here's the new plan:

we're still bowling, but we're doing it at home. we're going to clear out the playroom (as much as possible) and set up two "bowling alleys" using those plastic bowling sets. you know... like this:

so that's part of what we'll be doing. we'll also play some more "classic" games:
and maybe a couple others... musical chairs (sorry, no cutesy picture, since it's just chairs and music), that sort of thing.

and the piece de resistance??

before everyone arrives, the boys are going to help me make cupcakes. i picked up a couple "cupcake mix in a tubes" yesterday.
so that's what we're going to use to make the cupcakes beforehand. they'll bake while the kids are arriving, and then, once they've cooled,

THEY'RE ALL GOING TO DECORATE THEIR OWN CUPCAKES!!!!

i've got chocolate and white cupcakes, chocolate and white icing, and some sprinkles etc. i'll be picking up some more decorating supplies this week, so they'll have quite the selection. i'm really excited about this part of the party. :)

and so are the boys. which is the best part, if you ask me.

i also managed to pick up a couple cases of pop (7Up and A&W root beer), because they were on sale. and i might pick up a couple cheap pizzas on party day, or i'll make some popcorn with fun flavouring, and some chips or something fun like that.

bram is especially excited about the goody bags. he's been nagging me to go to the dollar store to get stuff. "and make sure you get something for the grown-ups, because grown-ups need treats every now and then, too, right, mommy?"

and perhaps you're wondering about decorations. admit it, you were. {wink} well, my friend, i'm waaaay ahead of you. this week, we will be heading to the dollar store for some contruction paper. the boys (and blithe) will be making paper chains to hang up around the house. we'll also get some balloons and hang those around the house, as well. sure, it's nothing fancy, but it's fun, and the boys can help, so they'll love that.

so, there you have it. a double b-day partay for the boys.

can you believe, my little men are going to be 6 and 4???? i'm having a little trouble believing it, but i'm sooooo excited!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

my very long to-do list for tomorrow

which, technically, would be today, since it's 1:30 in the morning.

ah, sweet simplicity, why dost thou elude me so?

here we go:

  1. put away laundry
  2. wash bedding? (a mom can dream)
  3. go to bank
  4. go to another bank
  5. hand out resumes
  6. work out (for some sanity. and 'cause i want nice abs again. a girl can dream.)
  7. try to find the living room and playroom floors
  8. make phone calls for church
  9. fill out some forms
  10. find a letter that has gone missing
  11. work on a drama
  12. work on a novel (for NaNoWriMo)
somewhere in there, i suppose it would be nice to eat, but again, a girl can dream.

sad but true, this is my day tomorrow. good thing there's coffee. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

by popular request...

my recipe for hash brown casserole. (and be warned: this is one of my recipes. so expect my unique measurements.)

some hash browns. judge the amount based on the size of the dish-thingy
one onion, chopped
cheese. grated. i like a lot of cheese. because i like cheese a lot.
a can of cream of broccoli soup (or cream of broccoli and cheese soup. that's awesome.)
some milk. again, i don't measure, so just eyeball it.

sometimes i throw in some veggies. usually more broccoli, if i have it. because i also like broccoli. i have also been known to throw in some sausage. again, because i like sausage.

so i throw it into the oven, at say... 350-ish. and i let it cook... until it's done.

and then we devour it. because it's just. that. good.

ok, i just re-read this post, and wow. why do i even bother sharing recipes??? unless this is how you cook, this makes no sense!!! i'm really sorry, gentle readers. maybe in the future, i'll be more diligent when cooking and actually - gasp! - measure something.

but probably not.

mmm... mini chocolate bars...

hallowe'en. it's awesome. dressing up is fun. candy is awesome.


but chocolate...

sorry, had a mini stroke there, i'm sure.

in case you don't realize this, i love chocolate. dark, white, milk... love it, love it, love it.

this hallowe'en, the kids went trick-or-treating. and WOW!!! the loot!!!!!!!!!

sorry, had another stroke there.

the kids can keep the candy and kool-aid jammers and cheesies. they can even keep the tootsie rolls and smarties, even though i am aware that they are (technically) chocolate. but they're gross. i want the other ones. you know... the good ones.

mars.

reese peanut butter cups.

coffee crisp.

kit kat.

caramilk.

oh henry!

it's just. so. beautiful.

and there's just. so. much of it.

well, there was. by now, not so much. but um... don't tell the kids. they don't know how much i've mooched. it's just our little secret. {wink}

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"simple"? maybe not. but definitely healthier.

wow, i can hear you thinking, three posts in two days! what has happened that i am being graced and gifted with so many beauteous thoughts from heather???


awww, stop, i'm blushing.

well, what has happened is this: the house is a mess, and i'm procrastinating. no, seriously, that's what it is. i'm not actually joking. it's kind of a disaster right now. {hangs head in shame} but it's going to get cleaned up as soon as i finish this post. promise. anyhoo...

i have decided that November is officially Getting Healthy Month in my little neck of the woods. i've decided to stop eating so much junk food and fast food. no more $5 pizzas because i'm too lazy/tired/short on time to cook. hence the slow cooker this morning. i'm also going to be better at housework (she types, not looking around the house). but also...

i've decided to actively work on getting healthier in other ways, too. in the last post, i mentioned that i was going to the gym. well, i just got back. i've decided that i'm going to go every weekday to do some cardio stuff, and 2 to 3 times a week, do some strength stuff, as well. i'm also going to take a couple classes a week. for example, tomorrow morning, i'm going to yoga. i can't wait!

so far, it's going nicely. i've been twice now. (don't laugh too hard, please.) i'm really enjoying it. my mood is better, and my energy level is better. sure, i'm not in as great shape as i'd like to be, but again, that's why i'm going every day. i have three very active young kids, and i'd like to be able to keep up with them.

the other reason i'm working out is this: i don't want to gain weight. or rather, more weight.

in march 2008, when i turned 30, i wore a size 18 (but i fit a 20. can you say, "denial"??) and weighed in at a whopping 270 lbs. and i didn't look good. now, about 2.5 years later, i'm wearing a size 14. and in fact, i have some pants and skirts that are a 12! 12! can you believe it?!?! i've worked hard for this, and i'm enjoying it.

in the last couple months, however, i've put on about 5 lbs. that makes me sad. and who knows, maybe no one else can tell by looking at me. but i know. i see it. and it bothers me. especially since i'd like to lose another 20 to 25 lbs.

as it stands right now, i can walk into a store, grab a large or 14, and buy it, without even trying it on (i seem to always have the kidley-winks with me when i shop), and know that when i get it home, it will fit. i hadn't been able to do that for a loooooooooooooong time. so it's nice.

so, yeah, maybe this is just adding something to my life, when i really should be trying to simplify, but to me, simplicity also means health, wellness and wholeness. and sitting on my arse for x number of hours a day just isn't cutting it anymore. so this is now my plan. i'm making a lot of changes around here lately, and it's good. i'm working out, i'm looking for work, i'm drinking more water, i'm trying to drive less, i'm trying to eat healthier, i'm trying to do yoga or mediation every day...

and yes, i know that i wrote "i'm trying." that's because i'm aware that changes like this take time, and there will be days that i don't manage to reach one or more of these goals. some days just get away from me. and i'm ok with that. as long as i do my best every day to make healthier choices for myself and the kids, it's ok.

but i gotta say... this working out thing better be worth it, because wow! my abs are tired!! and my arms a little bit (an old canoeing injury... yes, i'm just. that. canadian. haha) i'll be ok. i'm going to drink some water, put on the radio or an andrea bocelli CD or something, and get to work cleaning the house.

sigh... i really hate housework. what they need is a house that cleans itself. that would be awesome. oh! and make it in my price range, too. hey, a mom can dream, right? k, off a-cleaning i go.

mmm... slow cooker...

i think a slow cooker is the greatest invention ever. ever.

ever.

this morning, while making the boys' lunches for school (blithe stayed with her dad one extra night), i had asher help me with supper tonight. bram was confused by this, and kept saying, "not supper. breakfast. don't you mean breakfast, mommy?" "why, no, my young son. i mean supper."

i had already washed off some beans and dumped them into the slow cooker. so asher hopped up onto a chair and poured in the water. and then i turned it on.

and walked away.

and all day so far, i've been enjoying the smell of the beans as they cook. oooooh, supper's gonna be gooooood!!!!

  • beans
  • brown rice
  • fried onion
  • bacon (if i have any... which i think i do... but i'm not sure... i'll check later)
  • fresh, homemade bread
hold on a sec. my laptop is shooting sparks at me. i think i was drooling a little too much.

ok, it's under control now.

just ignore the smell of smoke.

and focus on the smell of beans and bread.

oh, wait. you can't. because you're not here. awwww, shucks, that's too bad. don't worry, i'll eat your share. i'll sacrifice my waistline for you like that. i don't mind. 

speaking of my waistline... maybe i should go workout this afternoon, before the kidley-winks come home. yup, that's what i'm gonna do. and so, toodles! i'm off to the gym! {grabs bag and flies out the door}

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

jealous? you should be.

because i make

hands down

the best

grilled cheese

EVER!!!!

ever.

i won't divulge all my secrets (like the bread recipe - that's right. homemade bread. sucka.). but here are a few:

  1. homemade bread. awwwww yeah...
  2. shredded cheese. melts better. gets nice and oozy. mmm... oozy cheese.
  3. i sing and dance while making it. (but i won't tell you the song. that's the secret. {wink})
  4. ham. shaved black forest ham. beautiful.
now, i'd take a picture of it, but to be honest, well, i ate the sammy before i even thought about photographing it. besides, i wouldn't want you to be blinded by the awesomeness. because, trust me, you would be.

admit it. you're jealous now. and yes. you should be.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

cool websites for home decor, pretty much custom and DIY designs

ok, so we all know by now that i hate housework. and oh! do i have tons to do today!! :S so, obviously, i watched Steven & Chris instead. and they had the coolest segment about DIY/custom home decor... websites. that's right, you can get custom-designed pillows, fabric, wallpaper... while sitting on the couch in your underwear. (fyi, right now i'm clothed. but i could still order some of these things. clothes are ok, too. they don't discriminate.) so here we go, some really awesome websites:

rollout.ca
custom wallpaper. nuff said. apparently, great quality. you can make your own designs or choose from pre-made stuff. can't decide between skulls or victorian? get them both on one paper! want a poem on your wall? don't give the kids a sharpie... nope. order it on wallpaper. :) awesome.

inmod.com
in addition to having cool everything!!!, you can design your own pillow. designs are not printed on the fabric, they're embroidered.

scotties.ca
yes, the kleenex people... or, um... i guess scotties wouldn't like being called "kleenex"... since they're... you know... the competition... but you know what i mean. anyhoo... here, you can design your own photo sleeve, which slips right over the.... oh, what do they call them now?!?!... "facial tissue" box. so cute!! and not that expensive, either. about $6, and you can use the photo sleeve over and over again. (ugh. you know what? i don't care what scotties says. they're kleenex.)

spoonflower.com
custom fabric. that's right, you can design your own fabric. and they have all the information you need when ordering fabric, to make it easier. and since it's kind of like etsy, you can contact the designers and discuss your needs.

jonathanadler.com
"customize your rugs, pillows & totes." seriously. how awesome is that!!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

kittens!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 smokey brought james downstairs the other day, so we let her (yes, james is a girl) roam for a while. she's so tiny!!!!

 smokey, cuddling with her babies on the couch. the one peeking there is james.
mouse and james, cuddling with elmo and me. and the kitten trapped between my leg and elmo's foot... that's mouse. mouse is my favourite of the two.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the only thing better than chocolate treats... is homemade chocolate treats.

blithe and i spent the evening together tonight, and i have to say, it was such a special time. we don't often get time together without the boys, so this was truly wonderful.

i will post in a little while about the why's and what's about the evening on blithe's blog, but here is what i want to post about here:

WE MADE CHOCOLATES!!!!!

we decided that chocolate would be a perfect treat for two ladies, so off we trekked to Bulk Barn and picked up some melting chocolate (milk and dark - i might be indecisive... i'll let you know when i figure it out) and some skor bits. mmm... skor bits...

so we came home and melted said chocolate. blithe threw some of the pieces into the pot and stirred it up, and then she tossed in the skor bits. together, we poured the melted goodness into these little cups and left them to set.

i'm about to try one now... unwrapping it...putting it into my mouth... savouring it as it melts in my mouth (well, the chocolate is melting. skor bits don't melt)... stroking out from the goodness...

oh, i don't think i should share these with blithe. i'm going to have to save her from them. they're just no good. [wink]

alright, alright. i'll let her have some. after all, i promised that she could take some (1 or 2 pieces) in her lunch tomorrow. and we're going to give the boys each a piece, too, because they will love it.

we have never made chocolates. usually i just buy a twix or kitkat or something... occasionally, i indulge in dark chocolate with red chili (which is beautiful, by the way). but the chocolate blithe and i made tonight... these are wonderful, and beyond easy, and we are sooooooooooooooooo making this again!!!!

i still have the dark chocolate pieces. i just need to find the right je ne sais quoi to put in it. so tomorrow, i will be adventuring in a couple shops i know. what fun!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

well, the kidley-winks are back at school...

... yes, yes, old news, i know. but! once again, it means...

lunches.

and so, i give you... tomorrow's lunches!

home-made chicken soup (sans peanut butter - see the next post for details on that beauty)
celery sticks (which i think are gross, i admit. but the kids love them, and i insist on at least one healthy snack)
apple juice
chocolate chip cookies. which i am going to make this evening.

now, i prefer to send all healthy snacks in lunches. but we're getting low on snack-y stuff in the house tonight, but i have all the ingredients for the cookies. and if i make cookies tonight, i can send some to school with blithe and bram, and asher will have a cookie when he gets home at lunchtime.

so i headed over to my fave site of all time, allrecipes.com and voila! here's the recipe i'm going to use tonight:

Chewy Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 cups butter, softened
1-1/4 cups white sugar
1-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. preheat oven to 375F. sift together flours, baking power and baking soda; set aside.
2. in a large bowl, cream together butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. beat in the eggs and vanilla, until well blended. gradually stir in flour mixture. stir in chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.  drop cookies by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheets.
3. bake for 10 to 14 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges are light brown. let cookies cool on the baking sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

i can't wait to see how these turn out. and i'm going to try hard not to eat the dough. we'll see how it all turns out.

Monday, September 13, 2010

no... words... it's just... so... beautiful!! {drools all over keyboard}

so, um, yeah. i'm addicted to cake wrecks. i really am. i'm not too proud to admit it.

the problem here is that... well... i'm also highly suggestible. which means that,

inevitably,

every time i check out cake wrecks...

um...

i want cake.

so, since i live my life online (ok, i'm not that bad, but my laptop is often within reach), i updated my FB status:
Heather really wants some cake now. cake wrecks + highly suggestible heather = craving for a really ugly, really yummy cake!!

true story.

well, imagine my delight when my friend recommended i check out the 5 minute cake recipe page on FB. and let me just say... it was the best sidetrip through FB i've ever taken. (see "highly suggestible heather" comment above.)

well, gentle reader, here is the recipe:

5-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp chocolate chips (optional)
a small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug

add dry ingredients to mug, and mix thoroughly. add the egg, and mix thoroughly.

pour in the milk and oil, and mix well.

add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.

put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 mins on high. the cake will rise over the top of the mug; don't worry. allow to cool a little, and tip onto a plate if desired.


doesn't this just sound like the most beauteous thing you have read all day?!?! as soon as kids leave, i'm making this for myself. i'll post the review when i finish it. :)

ps - clicking on the title of the recipe will take you straight to the FB page, so as to give credit where credit is due.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

wha-?! asher on My Simple Life?! yes. and it's all just so very normal.

ah, normalcy. boring balm, sweet elixir of mundaneness (mundaniosity? mundanity?), when the only thing to do is watch tv and blog and stare at the walls for a few hours.

and laundry and tidying up and running the dishwasher and making beds and making meals.

and then staring at the walls a little bit longer.

because i can.

because the kids are all in school!!!!!!

that's right, folks! the kids have now officially started school!!!!!

yup, you read that right! all the kids have officially started school!!!






including... drum roll, please... [does drum roll on laptop]... the littlest man!!!!!





look how proud he is of himself, waiting for the bus on his first day of school!!! he's been waiting for this for so long; he's been practicing sitting "criss cross applesauce hands in your lap" for weeks! he's learned how to sit like that for a whopping 3 seconds!!! i'm so proud!!! (i'd be prouder if he could sit like that for 3 minutes, mind you, but beggars can't be choosers, a mom can dream, insert wishful-thinking/i'll-take-what-i-can-get comment here.)

yup. they're all at school. all of them. all of them.

all of them.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

chocolate salami?? WHA-?!?!

once again, i'm watching Taste Budz with the kids. and today they are making... get this!!... chocolate salami!! as a lover of chocolate AND salami, i'm intrigued!! here's the recipe:

3.5 oz dark chocolate
3.5 oz milk chocolate
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp honey
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
4 lady finger cookies
1/2 cup almonds, chopped, skin on, toasted
1 cup Rice Krispies
1/2 cup dried cherries, cranberries or apricots, finely chopped
fruit, for serving with salami (try strawberries, kiwis, pomegranate or raspberries).

Directions
Melt dark chocolate, milk chocolate and butter over a double boiler.

when chocolate is melted, stir in honey, cinnamon, salt and vanilla.

crush lady fingers in ziploc bag. you need about 1 cup of rough, coarse crumbs.

add lady finger crumbs, almonds, Rice Krispies, and dried cherries to the chocolate mix. stir to combine. let cool 10 to 15 minutes. this will make it easier to roll the mixture.

roll in parchment paper to form a log. then wrap tightly in saran wrap, tapering ends so they are rounded like a salami. refrigerate until set, about 2 to 3 hours.

cut chocolate salami into 1/2" to 1/3" slices. serve with small dollop of yogurt cream. store in refrigerator. makes about 20 slices.


i wish i could show you a picture, but i can't find one. you'll just have to believe me when i say that it looks amazing!!!! if you want to find the recipe for yourself, check out Taste Buds.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

KITTENS!!!!!!!!


our kitteh smokey had kittens yesterday. two of them. blithe and i discovered her firstborn once it was a cleaned off and fluffy and cute. then we left smokey with her wee one for a while, and when we came back, there was a second wee one, who was still wet and yucky. apparently, we just missed the birth. (but of course i took pics.

they're so cute! their names are Mouse (after the cat in the Judy Moody series of books) and James (as in, the big red engine). Mouse is a dark tabby, and James is a darker version of smokey. the white around their necks is exactly the same.

i keep checking on them periodically, and i will be updating you as they grow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

MasterChef. what can i say? i love Gordon Ramsay. part deux

i've picked up a couple tips tonight that i want to share with you. ok, to be honest, i just don't want to forget these tips, and i don't have a pen and paper handy, so i'm putting them here. and you, gentle reader, get to reap the benefits.

(and if any of these tips are obvious to you, please don't tell me. i'd hate to think i'm the only one who didn't know how to bake a cake and cook fish, all in one night!)

(oh, and the "i don't know how to cook fish" comment... not true, obvi, given the abundance - 3! count 'em! - of fish recipes here lately. but i'm not a pro with fish yet, and i want to be. hence the fish-cooking tips.)

right. shall we begin? good.

  • when cooking halibut on the stove, do it in olive oil. make sure the pan is nice and hot. the fish should sizzle the instant it hits the pan. this caramelizes the outside of the fish, gives it a nice corn-flake colour, and is crucial (quothe cat cora) for flavour.
  • to test the pan, to see if it is, indeed, hot enough, touch a corner of the fish to the oiled pan. if it sizzles, there you have it. it's hot enough.
  • fish continues to cook even after it has been removed from the heat. which is why fish can be tricky to cook properly. it's very easy to overcook.
  • never serve half-cooked fish to world-class chefs. poor mike. :(
ok, i'll admit, i will likely never have to worry about serving half-cooked fish to a world-class chef. and good thing. my friend, that's a halibut big mistake. (eh? get it? "halibut"... like the fish. only funny. sort of. oh, never mind.)

MasterChef. what can i say? i love Gordon Ramsay

... except right at this very moment. because, you see, he and his co-conspirators are... umm... conspiring against me... which is, i suppose, exactly what conspirators do, so... um... right, moving on.

so, tonight's "mystery box challenge" is...

wait for it...

CUPCAKES!!!!!

ok, we all know how i feel about baking. specifically, i don't enjoy it. don't get me wrong, i greatly enjoy the end product. and even the mid-way product (ie., cookie dough). but the process!!!!



and that about sums up how i feel about baking.

and so, would it surprise you to know that, well... [oh, please, annie, don't read the rest of this sentence!! pretty please with icing sugar on top, please skip ahead!]... how can i put this...

i don't know, um, well... i mean... what i'm trying to say is that... [clears throat]...

i don't know how to bake a cake from scratch. [hangs head in shame]

i know, ok! I KNOW!!! this is something every mother of a child with a birthday should know, right?? anyone who spends any time in a kitchen knows the basic ingredients of a cake!!!! any and every self-respecting oven-using, wooden-spoon-wielding, kid-feeding, beater-licking cake-eater knows how to make a cake, right?

except... um... me, it would seem.

and so, tonight, inspired by the cupcake challenge on MasterChef, and my love of Gordon Ramsay, i googled "basic cake recipe."

and here, gentle reader, is what i found:

Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake Recipe
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

cream butter and sugar. add eggs, one at a time. add flour and milk alternately, ending with flour. last add vanilla. bake at 350F for 25 minutes or until done. use caramel icing.

mom, please don't feel bad about this lack of cake-making knowledge. there's no need for "i'm a terrible mother" or finding yourself a good therapist or anything. i've managed this far in life without this knowledge. and just think! now i can make cake whenever i want. and in my own defence, it's not like i've never made cake before. not to toot my own horn or anything, but you know... i am kind of a pro with a cake mix. ;)

oh. and the conspiracy against me? yeah. now i want a cupcake. one, perhaps, like this (click on "this" to see some amazing cupcakes). between MasterChef and CakeWrecks, i'm dying here, man! i'm dying!!!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

who knew saturday morning shows could be so educational??

the kids and i {hangs head in shame} were watching TVO kids. specifically, TasteBuds. it's a cooking show for kids. they learn about food, different types of cuisine, and the kids on the show actually make the food... like i said, it's a cooking show for kids.

and, it would seem, for moms.

today's episode was all about raw foods. it was pretty interesting, actually. sure, i knew about the whole raw food thing, and i've wanted to give it a whirl for a while now, but honestly, i've been too chicken to try it.

but i might be inspired today. they made a really cool (and tasty-looking) raw veggie lasagna, and two types of gazpacho. and you know... i just might try one of these. if i don't end up using one of their recipes, i've also looked up gazpacho on allrecipes.com and i'm perusing. hopefully i'll find something good.

and if not, i'll just make some cream of cauliflower or broccoli soup today. that will also be delish! :) rest assured, gentle reader, that whatever i end up making today, i will post the recipe. no worries. :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

upswing + a few extra bucks + bulk barn = FALAFELS!!!!

in case you haven't noticed, i've been expanding my culinary repertoire lately. i have discovered the pure and simple joy of fish, made the yummiest french toast the world has ever known (chocolate. 'nuff said.), and improvised pasta sauce with cream cheese.

yesterday was no exception.

i took the kidley-winks to bulk barn yesterday for some grocery shopping. i anticipated getting some flour, cereal and maybe some bird seed. we got bird seed... and several things, none of which were flour or cereal. but that's how i roll. especially lately, in the middle of an up-swing and after three weeks of insomnia. and now you know why i usually go shopping with a list, written out in the order in which i find it in the store: because i tend to shop impulsively.

i was meandering through the store, and i spotted something i hadn't seen there before: falafel mix!! so of course i just had to get some. (see up-swing/insomnia comment above.)

now, i just want to make this clear: i avoid "mixes" like the plague. i just don't like them. i'd much rather make something from scratch, thank-you very much! much tastier and more satisfying. besides, mixes are usually filled with ingredients i can't pronounce, and in my world, that's just not right. ingredients should be REAL FOODS and not something concocted in a laboratory. but when i looked at the ingredients, it was all actual ingredients!!! chick peas, garlic, spices, and something else i can't remember, but it was REAL!!!!

i was tempted to just go home and make it myself, having all those ingredients in my kitchen right now. but then i thought, "you know what? the kids have never had this before. do i really want to put all that work into something they may not even like?" so i got a scoopful, and decided that if it went over well enough, i'd make it for real on my own one of these days.

well!!! this was one of the coolest things i've done in a while! you take a cup of mix and 1 1/4 cup of water and mix them together. let it stand for at least 15 minutes. then you just form it into patties and fry in about an inch of vegetable oil until the patties are golden brown and crispy (aka, what you'd expect when deep-frying).

and just how did the little darlings react, you ask?

THEY LOVED IT!!!!!

they want these more often! which makes me very, very happy. so i plan to make them again, using the mix (i still have enough left for probably 2 more batches), and then i'll make them myself from scratch. i know how to do it (meaning: i read the ingredient list, and now i'll just wing it), so i can't wait!!!

and no, there was no pickled turnip (which sounds disgusting, but apparently i've loved it for years without realizing it!!). but, for the likes of hope and diane, i looked tonight at the superstore for some, but alas, couldn't find any. i'll keep looking. :)

yes, i'm a pescavore. (which is my way of saying "i like fish" but all smart-sounding.)

that's right. i like fish. a lot. and i'm ok with that. because

i think it's delicious.

and quite possibly, the most versatile food on the planet. (yes, yes, eggs, blah blah blah. but fish!!!)

what inspired this confession? well... [looks sheepishly at feet]

we had fish for supper. yes, again. but it's good!!!!!!


this afternoon, we headed to the grocery store for catfood, because poor Smokey is almost out. we picked up:

  • a pair of shorts for bram and 2 tops for yours truly (blithe and asher have plenty of clothes already)
  • a watermelon
  • feta cheese
  • fresh mint
  • milk
  • plain yogurt
  • salmon. and no, not the kind in a can. ew.
and please don't notice that catfood is not on that list! neither is diapers, of which asher only has 3 left. don't notice that. [note to self: after church tomorrow, stop at loblaws for diapers and catfood. then maybe, meander michaels for a few minutes. because it's right there, and what's a trip to south london without going into michaels???]

so i picked up some salmon because i was craving fish today for some reason. it's just that i've begun to see how marvelously easy and tasty and cheap and wonderful fish actually is, and now, when i'm not craving lentils and sausage, i crave fish. ok, sometimes i crave chocolate, too, but that's just because i'm female. (as an aside, chocolate + bread + fried = heaven. just sayin'.) so, i found a nice big piece of salmon (for sligtly less than the price of two decent-sized chicken breasts, actually), and brought it home. ok, first i paid for it, then i brought it home. i might be hypomanic right now, but that does not mean i shoplift. nope. when i'm up like this, i impulse shop. hence the fish. anyhoo...

well, i'll admit, i have never cooked salmon before. but it's my favourite of all the fish. i've had it a number of times in a number of ways, and i've always loved it. (fyi, my favourite is raw. that's right, folks, i heart sushi. so does blithe. and asher. bram, not so much. probably because it's not deep-fried in batter. sigh.) so, once again, i went to one of my favourite websites, allrecipes.com, and searched "salmon." i considered a bunch of recipes, but in the end, found one that really caught my fancy. so, i posted it on my facebook... and didn't follow it.

you weren't really expecting me to follow a recipe, were you???

the recipe i found was for roast salmon with balsamic vinegar. sounds absolutely divine, n'est-ce pas? but alas, i lack balsamic vinegar. but when i looked in the fridge, i found PC Memories of Tuscany sauce. it says it's a marinade/grilling sauce for basically everything but fish, but it's balsamic vinegar and fig, so i gave it a whirl. and let me just say...

WOW!!!!!

so, i marinaded the salmon in the sauce for about 30 minutes in the fridge. meanwhile, i loaded the dishwasher and tidied the kitchen a bit. i preheated the oven to 450F, and then placed the fish on a baking sheet and thew it in the oven. let it bake for about 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. [note to self: clean oven, so as not to run into the other room every 17 seconds to wave a t-shirt under the smoke detector. yeah.]

a note about the cooking time: i ended up leaving it in for about an extra minute, but no longer. the thing is, i'd read that salmon continues to cook once removed from the oven, and i didn't want it to dry out. turns out, 11 minutes was perfect.

REVIEW: the salmon turned out wonderfully! it was probably one of my favourite dishes from the last while... the last long while, actually. i'll admit, i was tempted to skip the cooking process altogether and cook up some rice and pull out the nori and feast on sushi tonight, but i thought, nah. i'm gonna cook it. try something new. and i have to say, i'm very, very glad i did! i inhaled my piece, asher inhaled his piece (i'm not exaggerating when i say that almost half his piece was gone before we even prayed!!), and blithe may have suffered a small stroke from sheer gastronomical pleasure. as for bram? sigh. i swear, i'll convert him one of these days. meanwhile... {tear} he said {sniff} it was {gasp!} disgusting!!! can you believe that?!?! disgusting!!! what is wrong with this kid????? he maintains that he only likes fish if it's battered and deep-fried. and while i can't fault him on that front (having claimed to prefer that, myself, back in the day), still!!! this was such a delicious meal, and he barely touched it!!!

and since i mentioned "meal" in that last sentence, i should probably add that for our veggie tonight, we had green beans purchased just this morning from a very nice amish man at the local farmer's market. delightful!! i sautéed the beans in butter with some lemon juice, and they were delightful! at least, those of us with taste loved it. bram didn't like it at all. i mean, really!! whose kid is this, anyway?!?! sigh.

but i will post in a few minutes about another new food we tried this week, which bram did, in fact, enjoy very much. meanwhile, go out, get yourself some salmon, and try it!!! a. ma. zing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

lentils. yes, again. but they're good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

so, for those of you who don't know yet, by which i mean, those of you who obviously live under a huge rock of some sort, by which i mean, those of you who have never read this blog before (teehee), i love lentils. i know, some of you may think that's weird, but they're delicious and healthy and (just as thrilling for a poor single mom of scottish descent) cheap cheap cheap. soooooo...

i whipped up a little something this evening for supper.

ok, i whipped up a big something this evening for supper.

i give you....

Lentil and Sausage Casserole
1 onion, chopped
2 medium potatoes, cut into pieces... i don't know what you would call that... diced? does that sound right??
3 italian sausages, sliced into discs
lentils. i just dumped them in. i guess it would depend on the size of your dish, but since they're the main ingredient, be generous.
1 can diced tomatoes (i used the ones specifically for brushetta, since they've already got garlic, oil and herbs in them.)
feta cheese. i like it, so i used about 2/3 of a container, but i don't remember the size of the container.
salt, pepper, bay leaves, chili powder, parsley
water to cover, plus more if needed.

1. throw the ingredients into the casserole dish. except the can of tomatoes. open the can, then dump in the contents, and discard (recycle, please!) the can.
2. season as you see fit.
3. bake at 375F until potatoes are cooked. approx 1 hour (but then again, you're reading the woman who never looks at a clock, so just check on it periodically. oh my goodness, why do i bother posting my recipes here, with instructions like this?????)


REVIEW: wonderful! i really just made this up this afternoon because i was craving sausage and lentil, but didn't feel like making soup, and i had the feta and everything else, so i literally just tossed it into a big casserole dish and threw it into the oven. and it was so good, everyone, yes, everyone had seconds. including asher, and he doesn't like eating much anymore. but the kids inhaled theirs, and yes, i'll admit, i inhaled mine, too. i'm not too proud or girly to admit it. because it was just. that. good. i was really quite impressed with this, actually.

i made a huge batch, so even though we all had seconds, there's still a fair amount left. i plan on freezing the leftovers, just like i did with the leftover chili the other night (oh, yeah, i should post that "recipe"... but really, other than my not-so-secret ingredients, do i really have to? chili's gotta be one of the easiest things in the world to make, and it's never quite the same twice... but still, if you're lucky, i'll share.)

this is how i manage to feed us healthy food on very little money. i pick up good deals, shop in bulk, splurge on a couple things when i can... and make enormous amounts, and freeze the leftovers. that way, later in the week (or one some evening when i'm exhausted and/or broke), i can just toss it into the oven for a while to defrost and voila! another supper! or serve with fresh homemade bread and voila! lunch! so many ideas here, and they're all scrumptious!

anyway, that was dinner tonight, and we all loved it. you probably would, too. :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

fish. it's what's for dinner. again.

ok, so i have gotten over my fear of fish... or at least of cooking it. i don't know why, but i have always been intimidated by fish, and honestly, until the other week, i had only done fish sticks. you know, the frozen ones you get in a box. yup, did those twice. not too shabby. oh, wait, while asher was on his fat-free diet, we had some white fish kabobs, and those were pretty good, too!

but my recent foray into the world of actually cooking fish for real, you know, following a recipe and not the instructions on the package, was quite serendipitous. you'll recall the tale of the fish that (didn't) get away from last week, that delicious talapia that was thiiiiiiiiiiiiis good! well, i have another tale fer ye, me hearties.

yar, on thursday last, i be wanderin' ye old marketplace (read: superstore), when ahoy! i spy some sole! and a fine fish it be, for it be marked down by 30% (a tidbit about that later on). so i grabbed what i might and tossed him into me bucket (read: shopping cart) and i make way to the blessed harbour that be mine (read: home). yar!

so here is the recipe i tried out tonight:

Crispy Fish Fillets
1 egg
2 tbsp prepared yellow mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups instant mashed potato flakes
1/4 cup oil (for frying)
4 (6 oz) sole fillets

1. in a shallow dish, whisk together egg, mustard and salt; set aside. place potato flakes in a separate shallow dish.
2. heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
3. dip fillets in egg mixture, then dredge fillets through potato flakes, being sure to entirely coat the fish. for extra crispy, dip in egg mixture and flakes again.
4. fry fish fillets in oil for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.


ADAPTATIONS: first, being out of eggs, i used egg whites instead. (you'll note, this also reduces the fat content, which can be an important consideration when you're frying anything battered.) also, following a couple tips on the allrecipes.com page, i used flour instead of instant mashed potato flakes (which are ew, in my opinion), and i added parsley and garlic powder to the flour. another tip i got was to dip the fish in the flour first, then in the egg mixture, then the flour again. this allows the flour to stick to the fish better.

REVIEW: three words: a. ma. zing. it was absolutely delicious. blithe enjoyed it, and i actually had seconds. and since the boys were both asleep, i only made 3 pieces. and well, their loss is blithe's and my gain. mwahaha but i still have some fillets left, so i will most definitely make this again. and i was really surprised by one other thing with this recipe: i expected it to taste really strongly of mustard. apparently, i was wrong. the cooking process completely mellowed out the flavour, so that if you didn't know there was mustard in the batter, you'd never know. really, it was delicious and super easy to make and we really enjoyed it. in fact, it's going to become a regular.... especially since i've discovered just how cheap fish is!! which leads in nicely to my tidbit mentioned above...

early. morning. grocery shopping. seriously. i'll admit, i thought annie was insane. until i gave it a whirl last week before picking up the kids, and hokey doodle! i got a week's worth of groceries for $42!!!! i'm not even kidding! i got the 6 sole fillets for about $4.50, i got a huge club pack of honey garlic sausage (that's 12 sausages) for about $6, two fresh pizzas for $3 each, and all kinds of other little deals. just don't go to my store on thursdays, or i may be reduced to violence over a piece of fish or chicken or something. just saying.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

fish. it's what's for dinner.

Garlic Alfredo Talapia

some fish (the original recipe calls for 4 fillets, but i just used a big piece i bought at the store)
olive oil
(the recipe calls for creole seasoning, but lacking that, i just used italian salad dressing instead of the oil and seasoning.)

Alfredo Sauce
some butter
some parmesan cheese
some cream
some garlic, minced (1-2 cloves, if you're gonna use it)

1. pre-heat oven to 425F. place fish on baking sheet and brush with oil (or italian dressing, in my case). bake for about 10 mins, until flesh is no longer translucent (i used skinless. fish flesh = ew) and the fish flakes easily with a fork.
2. meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add garlic. cook about 2 mins until garlic has softened and the aroma has mellowed. add the cheese and cream. (you can use milk, but we're on a high-fat diet here, so cream it is. besides, cream makes it, well, creamier.) stir continously, and do not boil.
3. pour the sauce over the fish to serve and enjoy!

why do i even bother posting recipes here, with quantities this vague?? but alas, this is how i cook, and you must be used to that by now. haha

oh! but a word about the fish itself: i had picked it up a couple weeks ago at the grocery store, but we didn't end up using it at the time, so i threw it in the freezer. i wanted to use it today, but alas, it was frozen! but all was not lost (obviously, or i couldn't have posted this, now that i'm thinking about it). i remembered reading once that if you thaw fish in milk, it takes away the frozen taste. so that's what i did! i took the fish out a couple hours prior to cooking it, and put it in a container with milk, and covered it. and yup! you couldn't taste the frozen. just the fish. wonderful tip!!!

REVIEW: this was, in a word, straight from heaven. i loved it. it wasn't very fishy tasting, but it didn't taste like chicken, either. it was nicely fish-esque, and the alfredo sauce was a beautiful addition. blithe didn't have any, because she was sleeping off her heat exhaustion from yesterday, but the boys had it. and asher loved it. bram, on the other hand, well, let me tell you the tale.

you'll remember from two paragraphs earlier, that i purchased the fish a couple weeks ago. that was an interesting moment. i was looking at the fish, which was actually marked down (one of those "buy it and use it today" things - excellent way to snag a deal, by the way). bram started begging me - begging, i say! - to buy some fish because "i just love fish, mommy, and you never make it! please please please get fish!" then blithe and asher joined it. what could i do, i was outnumbered, and they're the ones i cook for, so give the masses what they want. so i bought the fish, brought it home, and ended up freezing it. today i finally cooked it. and bram, who loves fish and when he goes out for dinner insists on fish and chips because he "loves fish soooooooooo much"... didn't like it. turns out, this wannabe pescavore actually only likes fish if it's deep-fried and battered. you know, like fish and chips. not real fish, apparently. sigh. maybe i can convert him one of these days...

but asher (who can be somewhat picky) and i really loved this dish, and we will be having it again. because i don't encourage picky eating. i give the kids healthy food, grown-up food, real food, and we have never had a truly picky eater in the family. so that's the review i want you to take away from this post: yum.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

oh. my. goodness. i'd forgotten just how much i love planning and list-making!!

i used to be so organized. i had all my meals planned a week in advance, all the housework (evenutally) got done, we arrived for appointments on time. (lately, it would be an accomplishment to eat, find any clean clothes to wear, and arrive for appointments. period. LOL ok, that's a slight exaggeration, but not much.) spend a few months in the hospital and the whole system breaks down! sheesh!!


well, that changes now. i'm too overwhelmed anymore not to live without my precious lists. to-do lists. grocery lists. appointments. calendars. day planners. menu plans.


oh, yes, folks, this was my life once, and everything got done, on time, without (too much) stress and chaos. appointments were kept, work got done, things were accomplished, and i didn't feel like a complete and utter failure. so i've decided to go back to that. to get organized again. and you know what?? i'd forgotten how much fun it is!!!


here's the list of all the ways i'm a square:

  1. i love lists. i'm even making a list to prove it. seriously.
  2. day planners. {insert choir of angels}
  3. crossing things off my to-do list thrills me in ways i don't care to admit on a family blog.
  4. i have two ways of crossing things off a to-do list: a straight line through the item means that the item has been completed. a squiggly/wavy line through the item means that it's not on the list anymore, for a variety of reasons.
  5. DW gave me a beautiful planner/organizer last week, and i got all teary-eyed. it's just so beautiful!!
  6. i truly believe that a plain ol' papermate pen is one of the most wondrous things in the world. 
  7. i'm actually blogging about all this.
  8. i re-copied my menu for the coming week, so that i can have one on the fridge, and one in my planner. plus i've written the days' meals on the appropriate page in my planner.
  9. i have at least 4 pretty "My Week" pads on my fridge, each for a different purpose. the pale pink with polka-dots is for the menu.
  10. when i do my weekly menu, i don't just figure out supper in advance. nope. breakfast, lunch, snack, supper, all planned out days in advance. which, i'll admit, makes me very, very happy.
and #9 and #10 segue so nicely into the next part of this post: the weekly menu. now, since the kids are with ed from tuesday morning to thursday morning, my week starts today. and because they came back in the afternoon today, i can skip breakfast and lunch for today and go straight to snack and supper. here's what we've got for the coming days:

Thursday
snack: apple slices
supper: smoothies (they had a huge lunch)

Friday
breakfast: Timbits (supplied by my mother)
lunch: grilled cheese with ham, using homemade bread
snack: n/a, since the kids will be with their dad
supper: pasta with tomato sauce

Saturday
breakfast: smoothies
lunch: perogies with fried onion
snack: roll kuchen (i don't know how to spell it. it's a mennonite deep-fried piece of dough. i'm just guessing at the spelling there.)
supper: lentil and spinach soup, with homemade bread

Sunday
breakfast: toast with peanut butter
lunch: spaghetti and meatballs. alas, not homemade. nope. chef boyardee. but we're going to be at both services at church on sunday (i'm doing the sunday school thing again), so by the time we get home, it will be late and we (read: I) will be tired and needing something simple and easy. and there's not much easier than opening a can and dumping the contents into a pot for a few minutes.
snack: apple slices
supper: fish, roasted potatoes, corn or other veggie. see? this meal makes up for the chef boyardee, don't you agree? ;)

Monday
breakfast: pancakes
lunch: leftover soup with homemade bread
snack: homemade chocolate chip cookies (which we're going to make on monday afternoon)
supper: rice, beans, fried onions

Tuesday
breakfast: maybe.... chocolate french toast

so there we go. the week in food. and don't doubt that i've written in my planner when i need to make bread, too. and allot time to make the cookies. and when i need to start soaking the beans and cooking the rice. and thawing the fish. oh, yes, i'm on the ball. and it feels fabulous!!! i'll let you know on tuesday how this all went, but i'm hoping that this will go well. cross your crossables for me! 
 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

apparently, i'm the "awesomest mommy EVER!"

so! what started as a crappy kind of day turned into, apparently, the BEST day of blithe's life! and i know bram and asher had a great day, too. and ok, i had a pretty fun day, too.

yes, this morning i was in a funk. not cool. then we went grocery shopping. having learned my lesson last week, i was determined to have a better experience grocery shopping today. so we went in the morning, before the kidley-winks were tired and cranky and out of control their usual selves more active than i prefer. and i put asher in the cart. he wanted to walk, and he cried for the first minute or so, but he adjusted once he realized that i wasn't letting him out. no way was i going to chase him all over the store again. when you're the only adult with three young kids in a crowded grocery store on a saturday, the last thing you need is those three kids running in every imaginable direction at the same time. i refuse to leave my cart to wrangle wayward children. i just. plain. refuse. so, with asher in the cart, and having given blithe and bram very specific warnings instructions, we headed into the store.

apparently, they love fish. who knew! well, ok, i know bram loves fish. whenever we go out to eat (which, granted, is rare), if there is fish and chips on the menu, that's what he wants. he won't even hear of anything else. just fish and chips. and he eats the fish first. he'll leave fries uneaten, but you wouldn't even know there had been fish on his plate at one point. i swear he licks the plate clean when i'm not looking. LOL but the other two?? since when do they like fish?! but, they all wanted it, and there was some marked down, so i grabbed some. we also got our usual items, plus a couple extras.

  • pizza crust. this is in the bread section, and you get two crusts and packets of sauce. and it's only about $3 for the package, so it's great to have on hand. and really, who doesn't love homemade pizza??
  • toaster strudels. i'll admit, i'm not a morning person. i prefer to stay up at night when i have some quiet time to myself, and then i get up in time to do whatever it is we need to do for the day. lunches are made quickly, but they're also pretty basic, and blithe and bram dress themselves, and asher gets dressed when we're home from the bus stop, and that's our weekdays. weekends? with no obligations? please! you're lucky if i'm out of bed before 9! or maybe you're not so lucky. depends on where you are when i get up, and what you've been up to that necessitated my early rising. either way, this is the one meal per day that i want to be as easy as possible. so i like to have easy-peasy brekkies on hand for the kids. usually it's cereal, which they can pour and fix themselves. but once in a while, i splurge and get them a treat, and this week it's toaster strudels, on sale 2 for $4.
  • ice cream. alas, asher needs fat. and it's hot. and the PC ice cream was on sale. so we got Chocolate Crunch and Banana Split. and all i can say is: le drool! yum-tastic! seriously, try them. delicious!
  • ice cream cones. for those days when we don't have clean bowls just need a special little something. so today was the day, gentle readers. we each had 3 cones, i think. LOL
  • 2 cans of whipped cream. nuff said.
  • strawberries were on sale this week, too, so i got some. however, i plan on picking some up from a local farmer later this week. possibly grabbing a flat and dividing them into pre-measured packages and freezing them. much nicer to have local produce than store-bought. but they were there and so was i, so i grabbed some.
  • a package of sponge cake. (see 2 previous listed items.)
and the shopping went well! the kids were even well behaved in the check-out, and that is usually their challenging time. but they survived! see? there is a God!

then we came home, and after an hour or so, the wanderlust in me kicked in and we piled back into the truck and headed out to the Quaker Meeting House near Sparta. i had checked it out earlier this week, and it's absolutely beautiful, and the kids had wanted to check it out ever since they first heard of it, so off we went. they had a blast! it's a beautiful building, about 150 years old, and it's so simple and quiet and peaceful. they asked a lot of questions, and managed to sit quietly in the pews... for about 3 seconds. maybe. but they tried. they also enjoyed exploring the grounds, which are absolutely picturesque. the meeting house is tucked back into a maple grove, so it's surrounded by trees. there's a swing off to one side, and all you can hear is the sound of birds chirping overhead. stunningly beautiful. the kids want to go there one week for service, and i think we just might do that once this summer, and see how it goes (there's a sunday school for the kids, so they don't need to sit through an hour or so of silence).

then back home for a while and they played nicely together. then it was time for supper, so i tried to summon the will to make supper. but alas, the mood didn't strike. haha so i told the kids that we were going to go grad a pizza and come home. we piled in the car, and as i'm driving down the road, a thought occured to me: "they would love a picnic. i'll take them to the park tonight." so that's what we did. i didn't even tell them we were going until i was pulling into the park. we found a table in some shade, the kids each had maybe one piece of pizza and then took off to play. blithe and bram had a blast on the splash pad, getting completely soaked in their clothes (remember, i decided after we'd left home, so they didn't have bathing suits or towels, but who cares!). asher was going to join them, and even took his shirt off and stood at the edge of the chaos pad, but in the end, put his shirt back on and ran over to the playground equipment. there he climbed, slid, ran, swung, rocked and laughed for about 45 minutes. 45 minutes of constant motion, amongst (i swear) every child in town under the age of 17. he only got bumped once, but he didn't get hurt, and it was on his back, so no worries there. he had a great time! needless to say, they didn't want to leave.

but we did. and on the way home, all i heard was what a great day this was, how they loved the park and the quaker church, and how this was the best day of blithe's life. bram dubbed me "the awesomest mommy EVER" and asher told me he had a lot of fun, too. why do i always forget about the park? it's free, it's fun, it's fabulous!! we'll be going there a lot more often this summer. :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chocolate French Toast. yes, it's just as awesome as it sounds.

1 cup milk
4 eggs
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 slices of bread

  1. beat together milk, eggs, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
  2. heat a lightly buttered skillet or griddle over medium heat.
  3. dip each slice of bread into egg mixture until well soaked. place in pan, and cook on both sides until they are no longer gooey or shiny in the middle when cut in half, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
REVIEW
so, the kids have dubbed this "Mommy's Masterpiece" and were begging me to make this more often. i served it with strawberry sauce (homemade, of course; see "recipe" below), icing sugar and syrup. it was, in a word, fabulous! honestly, it's my new favourite comfort food, and i will definitely be making this again and again.

but a word about the cocoa, and some adjustments i made. first, the cocoa doesn't mix well with the milk. probably using chocolate milk would work better. but, since i was lacking choco milk, and because it doesn't have enough fat, i used the cocoa. i also added some vanilla (i just drizzled some into the mixture, so i have no idea how much), because sometimes straight cocoa can be a little strong, and vanilla heightens the flavour while also "mellowing" it somewhat. it turned out really well like that.

also, given that asher is currently on a high-fat diet, i didn't use milk for this recipe. i used table cream, with 18% fat. it worked just as well, though probably in the future i'll use regular milk, and just make his pieces last, adding polycose (fat/carb additive) to the mixture.

but honestly, it was amazing. seriously. you have to try this!!

Strawberry Sauce
4 cups frozen strawberries, cut up
some white sugar
some vanilla

toss it all into the slow cooker, and cook on high until it's done. there's no magic to it. just keep an eye on it, sampling every now and then to check temp and taste. if it needs more sugar, add more sugar. more vanilla? no prob; just add some more. you will have to stir it occasionally, anyway, since the strawberries have a tendency to stick to the side of the pot and burn a bit, so just make sure everyone is floating around the way they should be.

and in case you're wondering how i know it was 4 cups i used...

a while back (last summer?), i picked up a flat of jam strawberries, and my mom and i made freezer jam. it was fab. but i didn't have enough jars to use up the entire flat. so we cut up all the berries anyway, and since the recipe called for 4 cups, we measured out 4 cups and put that into freezer bags, so that when i did make the jam, i could just toss in the berries and not have to worry about cutting and measuring. brilliant, no? i'm hoping to do this again this summer, along with other freezables like zucchini, green peppers, various berries, and so forth. it's the same idea as what i did with stew at one point, which i plan on doing again. sure, it's more work up front, but when all you want in the entire world is stew or freezer jam or strawberry sauce or whatever, all you have to do is pull it out of the freezer and the hard part is already done! i've also done this with those big bags of frozen berries that you can get at the grocery store; i divided it into the amount of berries i need for smoothies, and froze that instead of having to just guess every time. honestly, this process really works!

so, that's that. a couple "recipes" and some time- and sanity-saving tips. have a great weekend! :)


Sunday, June 6, 2010

because i *clearly* don't have enough going on... ;)

so, tomorrow morning marks my return to teaching sunday school. i can't wait to get there and see all those young faces and get right in there with them and have some fun... i just love grade 5 kids!! ok, granted, they're not my all-time fave. that would be grade 6. then grades 7&8 are a very close second. then grade 5. and i'm hoping that after tomorrow, i can add grade 4 to that list, since it's a grade 4/5 class. LOL

and i know, i know, there are some of you out there reading this going, "is she insane??? the younger kids are where it's at!!" ah, gentle reader, how so very wrong you are. i think anyone who works with young kids is certifiable. yes, mom, that means you, who spent your entire career (and a fair chunk of your retirement) teaching kindergarten. i just think that's crazy. nope. put me in a room like that and, well, let's just say it wouldn't be pretty. BUT!! gimme a room full of grade 6's and i'm a happy woman!! :) anyhoo....


so the lesson plan inspired me, and i decided to make some play-doh, based on one of the activities. the kids are gonna test-drive it for me and let me know how it works out. but to do this,i looked up play-dough recipes on allrecipes.com and found a few there, but i wasn't entirely satisfied with them. so i googled it, and checked out another website called amazingmoms.com because they have a play-doh recipe. so!!! so here's the recipe:

3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups salt
3 cups water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cream of tartar
food colouring

Mix ALL of the ingredients in a large saucepan.
Cook over medium low heat, until the dough comes away from the edges of the pan and it becomes difficult to move the spoon. Remove from heat. Cool until it can be handled.
Place on counter or wax paper knead 3-4 times.
Store in an air tight container.


awesome!!! i am sooooooo excited about this!! i'll post later and let you know how it all turned out.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lentil Soup

3-1/2 medium potatoes, chopped
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 pound polish sausage, sliced
1/2 package lentils
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Place the potatoes, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and sausage in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook 15 minutes.
  2. Stir lentils into the pot. Add more water if necessary to just cover all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and continue cooking 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender.
Serves 6
prep time: 15 mins
cook time: 35 mins
total time: 50 mins


this is what i'm making for supper today. i can't wait. although, i've read some of the reviews, and they said to cook it longer to let the flavours mix (personally, i think stews should be cooked a long time, anyway, for just that reason. but that's me.) and to let the lentils fully cook. we'll see how it goes. i'll post the review after supper.

(if you click on the title of this post, it will take you to allrecipes.com and you can see the nutritional information, for those of you who like to know that stuff. and there's links to related recipes... that site is so addictive sometimes. LOL) 

UPDATE: ok, so, you should know my culinary stylings well enough by now to know that i rarely (if ever) follow a recipe exactly. this was no exception. i used 4 large potatoes, i didn't mesure the lentils so i have no idea how much i dumped in (yes, dumped. it was a lot), and i added a few herbs and spices to it. thyme and parsley, and since i'm too lazy to walk across the kitchen to grab some garlic and press it and put that into the pot and then wash the garlic residuals out of the press... i used garlic powder instead. beyond that, i pretty much stuck to the recipe. although i thought it needed a touch more salt, but that's ok, i just doused mine in salt, and left the kids salt-less. 

REVIEW: wonderful!!! the kids and i all have seconds (although since i had asher's which he barely touched, i think i had thirds. LOL) whatever, we all loved it, there's TONS leftover, and i can't wait to have it again!! this will definitely become a regular in our house. i TOTALLY recommend it. enjoy! :)

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